Category Archives: Law Professors

Comparative Law Made Simple

Published / by WT23

A lot of people want to find the government system that works and builds a healthy and well-functioning society. Before we decide what government style is best, it helps to know what the major types are. James Madison once observed that angelic people would need no government. Since people are not angelic, they require government of some kind.


Polybius, the ancient Greek political science expert, identified 4 major types of constitutions:


  1. Monarchy – One powerful unelected person rules the country, making and enforcing the law. A bad monarchy is a dictatorship. Wonderful if the ruler is benevolent. Terrible if he or she is not.


  1. Aristocracy – A group of unelected powerful people rule the country and enforce the law. A bad aristocracy is an oligarchy. It sometimes ignores the needs of the poor, but generally creates a wealthy and powerful society.


  1. Democracy – A majority of the people directly rule the country, (often through elected representatives) and they make and enforce the law through votes. A bad democracy is a ochlocracy (mob rule). Many European countries are this type of government. Democracies often have high debts because the citizens vote themselves benefits that the country cannot afford.


  1. Tripartite – Combines elements of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy with the hope to minimize the weaknesses and maximize the strengths of all three types. Often ends up bureaucratic and slow.


In the past, particularly in the tribal era, human government was typically conducted through Aristocracies. A group of the oldest and wealthiest members of the tribe would govern the others. Each style of government has strengths and weaknesses. When the members of a given government become selfish and proud, they evolve into the negative form of the constitutional style that they are using.


The Roman government tried to fix this problem by developing the first tripartite constitution. A tripartite government combines elements from all three forms of constitution that humans use. Sadly, the Roman Tripartite government did not last. It soon became a monarchy, as the consuls battled to control the whole governmental apparatus.


Some modern examples of Tripartite government include the United States of America and Switzerland. The United States has seen pressure from progressive influences to become a democracy, and abolish the Electoral College (an aristocracy mechanism to elect the president). So far, the pressure to do so has not been enough, and the recent 2016 Presidential election results saw the winning candidate losing the popular (democratic) vote but winning the electoral college (a form of aristocracy).


Sujit Choudhry is an international expert in comparative constitutional law. Sujit enjoys providing advice to policymakers who need tips on how to improve their government. Many times, the political sphere gets very stressful.


Studying the ancient political world with Sujit Choudhry can help your day be easier. You can reach Sujit at his LinkedIn account, and find his books on Amazon as well. Sujit looks forward to hearing from you.

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